Welcome to our next installment in the series on the top team offenses since the 1994 Valley League season!
In full disclosure, 2006 was the first year I started following the Valley League in earnest. And while the season was underway, I was not writing about it…. I was going to games and collecting autographs! I had been collecting at minor league games for a few years, and I added the VBL circuit to my hobby. I started this website (at typepad.com) in November of 2006. And while the hobby of collecting autographs went away after a short while, this crazy hobby of writing about the league is now almost 15 years old.
ANYWAY. Today, we’ll take a look at the 2006 Luray Wranglers, a team that had three eventual major leaguers and many, many more pro players.
Team 6: 2006 Luray Wranglers
The ’06 Wranglers finished the regular season tied for 5th place in the VBL at 21-21. The team then went on a tear, getting hot at the perfect moment. It sweep 4th place Haymarket in round one, two games to none, and then also swept the regular season champs, New Market, also two games to zero. In the finals, Staunton put up a fight, but Luray would not be denied, winning three games to two in the best-of-five championship series. It was the franchise’s first of three titles.
The summer of 2006 was more of a pitching affair compared to our last entry from 2012. The league in ’06 hit .258/.345/.355, but the Wranglers hit .279/.360/.435, ending up at +116 on the rubric, putting the team at #6 overall. The Wranglers led the league in runs, doubles (89), slugging percentage, and- get this- more than doubled the second place team in home runs, 56 to 27 (Front Royal). The team finished second in batting average, triples (9), and on-base percentage, and third in walks. Oh, and by the way, the staff’s ERA of 3.04 led the league as well.
- Tyler Kuhn, West Virginia: .363/.394/.561 in 223 at-bats, with 42 runs, 13 doubles, five triples, seven home runs, 25 RBIs, 14/35 BB/K ratio. He was named the league’s MVP.
- Jamie McOwen, Florida International: .289/.356/.467 in 197 at-bats, with 29 runs, 17 doubles, six home runs, 44 RBIs, 20/30 BB/K, and 12 stolen bases.
- Pete Rodriguez, Louisville: .275/.385/.395 in 167 at-bats, 32 runs, 12 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 25 RBIs, 22/27 BB/K, nine HBP.
- Adam Amar, Memphis: .362/.442/.562 in 105 at-bats, with six doubles, five home runs, 15/13 BB/K.
- Yonder Alonso, Miami: .283/.388/.556 in 99 at-bats, three doubles, eight home runs, 22 RBIs, 14/23 BB/K. Named the top prospect in the league by Baseball America.
- Brett Bowen, Pensacola JC: .331/.423/.551 in 118 at-bats, with three doubles and seven home runs.
- Corey Lozano, Florida International: .290/.359/.333 in 69 at-bats, three doubles, 8/6 BB/K.
An incredible 13 players went on from this team to play organized baseball. Eight of them were hitters:
- Alonso was picked 7th overall in 2008. He, of course, went on to an illustrious major league career, hitting .259/.332/.404 over 3,362 at-bats in his ten year career. He hit 181 doubles, 100 home runs, had 426 RBIs, and had a solid 366/648 BB/K ratio. He finished with a 103 OPS+, putting him at 3% better than league average. He finished 6th in Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, and was an All-Star in 2017, when he exploded to hit a career-best 28 home runs for the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.
- Kuhn was a Chicago White Sox draft pick in the 15th round in 2008. He played six seasons in the minors, with three of them just one step from the majors in Triple-A. He hit a total of .295/.349/.408 in 2,461 at-bats, with 143 doubles, 42 triples, 17 home runs, 74 stolen bases, and 195 walks against 388 strikeouts. He also played one season in the Independent American Association in 2014, and hit .360/.415/.482 in 411 at-bats, with 29 doubles and a 43/42 BB/K ratio. I imagine Winnipeg would have taken him back… I wonder why he didn’t play another season there?
- Eric Campbell (Boston College) was picked in the 8th round of the 2008 draft by the New York Mets. Campbell reached New York in May of 2014, and played in parts of three seasons in the majors, hitting .221/.312/.311 in 438 total at-bats. He’s played in the minors for 11 seasons, last in 2019 for Las Vegas, Oakland’s Triple-A team. He also played in Japan in 2017. He is currently a free agent. In Luray in 2006, Campbell hit .202/.356/.340 in 94 at-bats. He had four home runs and an 18/15 BB/K ratio.
- McOwen was scooped up by the Seattle Mariners in the 6th round of the 2007 draft. He spent four years in the minors, hitting a total of .289/.339/.416 in 1,532 at-bats. He added 78 doubles, 18 triples, 27 home runs, 59 stolen bases, and 119 walks against 308 strikeouts. In 2009, McOwen famously hit in 45 straight games, the longest streak in the High-A California League and 8th longest in minor league history. After his organized career ended in 2011, he spent four more season in Indy ball, last in 2018.
- Eddy Rodriguez (Miami) only played in three games in Luray in 2006, but he counts as well (and he played a full season in 2005). (By the way, he went 2-9 with a double. And he gave my daughter a baseball, making her a fan for life.) Rodriguez only played a few games that summer because he was already drafted in the 20th round in 2006 by the Cincinnati Reds. After three seasons with the Reds, he was released. After two years in Indy ball, he returned to the minors with the San Diego Padres in 2011. In 2012, he got an unexpected call-up to the majors. He played in two games, hit one home run, and was returned to the minors. He played for five more seasons, through 2017, but did not make it back to the majors.
- Amar was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Toronto Blue Jays after he laid waste to the independent Golden Baseball League in 2007. He payed in the minors for two years, hitting a combined .252/.321/.398 in 369 at-bats. He ended his career by playing for three different indy Frontier League teams in 2010.
- Tyson Auer (Central Florida) was also signed as an undrafted college player. The Los Angeles Angels grabbed him in 2008, and he spent five years in their minor league system. He hit a total of .287/.342/.379 in 1,504 at-bats, with 62 doubles, 23 triples, 10 home runs, and 125 stolen bases (he stole 54 in 2010, split between three levels). He last played in 2012. For Luray in 2006, he hit .259/.300/.357 in 112 at-bats.)
- Ryan Mollica (Florida International) was picked by the New York Mets in the 47th round of the 2009 draft. He played in the minors for two seasons (.278/.340/.368 in 212 at-bats), and then in Indy ball for two more (.308/.366/.479 in 676 at-bats). He hit .260/.355/.467 in 150 at-bats in 2006, with seven doubles and eight home runs.